Ohio woman set to reclaim exotic animals from zoo

This photo provided by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium shows one of three leopards that were captured by authorities Wednesday, a day after their owner released dozens of wild animals and then killed himself near Zanesville, Ohio. Sheriff's deputies shot and killed 48 of the animals, including 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears, a baboon, a wolf and three mountain lions. Six of the released animals - three leopards, a bear and two monkeys - were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. (AP Photo/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Grahm S. Jones)

October 27, 2011 7:37:17 AM PDT
The owner of an exotic animal preserve who committed suicide after freeing dozens of lions, tigers and other beasts owed tens of thousands in unpaid taxes, and a fellow big-cat enthusiast said that he had taken in so many creatures he was "in over his head."

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium says it took the six surviving animals with Marian Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to the animals. It says her lawyers notified the zoo that she will reclaim the beasts, possibly as early as Thursday.

A spokeswoman says the zoo has contacted state and federal agencies in search of a way to keep the animals.

Police shot and killed four dozen more animals that escaped from the eastern Ohio farm near Zanesville last week, including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears.